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Automatic couplers in N scale and other digital motorization

Whereas decades ago scale N was still far behind its bigger brothers such as H0, this is no longer the case. Detailed models with many digital features have become the norm. Recently, we are also seeing more moving parts coming into the models. While Arnold already had an automatic clutch in the early years. How does this develop further?

FLEISCHMANN: The snow plow

The epitome of moving parts is the Fleischmann 737001 snow plow. This locomotive cannot drive on its own. At the front, there are rotating parts for snow removal on the track. And besides, the whole unit can turn around. There are no less than three motors incorporated in this model. And all of this is digitally controllable.

It is a real showcase of what is possible. That’s nice. On the other hand, the price of 439 euros is a reason for many enthusiastic track N enthusiasts to think once more about this model. After all, few model railroaders have a snowy landscape. And running the unit requires a lot of free space on the layout. For jobs that are at trade shows, this is definitely a nice asset.

MINITRIX Moving pantograph

The BR103 is by all accounts a legendary locomotive. Almost all model railroaders have a variant of this running around. Minitrix launched a model with an additional motor in 2023. This allows the pantograph to move up and down. This is a fantastic gimmick.

445 euros may then be charged for this. Not surprisingly, this MHI model is still for sale in many places. Without a moving pantograph, this locomotive is available from Fleischmann for 100 euros less. Many model train enthusiasts run without overhead wires; therefore, this model is also a nice addition to a small group.

ARNOLD: Automatic couplings

With the catchy name the “Simplex coupler,” Arnold models in early years already had a coupler that could automatically couple a train. The coupler responds mechanically to the speed and direction of travel of the locomotive. Thus, a locomotive could shunt and when moving off, the coupler goes up and the wagons remain.


No supplier has adopted this. Recently, Lilliput released a whole series of “Köf” locomotives. These are equipped with a digital coupler controlled via DCC. This allows a wagon to be uncoupled remotely via the Z21 App, for example.

The beautiful models are now sold out in many places. Another downside is that these locomotives are not equipped with other digital features such as sound. With that, the price of 275 euros is hefty.

Those who want to can also do their own work and retrofit digital links. The appearance of this is quite “coarse. It does not enhance the aesthetics. For the price of 25 euros per clutch, no one has to put up with it. Provided you have the (digital) skills to do so.

This article is also available in: Nederlands


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